Don't make it a cold lonely winter

Working from home may save money on travel – but it can mean running your household heating for longer, which can cost you the money you have saved and more.

In fact, if you are working from home this winter, you could face paying more than £100 extra on your energy bills. Winter fuel accounts for around 70% of all household energy consumption and around 11% of people cannot afford to keep their homes warm. But it does not have to be a long, cold, lonely and expensive winter. Help to keep your heating costs as low as possible is at hand.

Don’t waste your energy…

Heat loss is a major cost, but often quite a straightforward fix. Older or poorly constructed homes suffer the worst heat loss due to problems such as empty and uninsulated loft space, air leaks, poor window fitting. If you are feeling drafts in your home or find that the walls are particularly cold in the winter months, you need to look at improving your insulation.

Lagging your loft is the first step. Loft Insulation normally costs around £300 to £500. Cavity wall insulation is a little more complicated and not suitable for every type of property, but grants are available for both under the Green Homes Grant.

Deal with drafts and keep more heat in. Sealing around doors and windows can make a huge difference. You can probably find draught seal tape in your local pound store, and get creative with a DIY draft excluder.

Make sure that you close all of the doors in your home to lock heat into the rooms that you’re actually using. If there are rooms you don’t use at all, turn the radiators right down.

Keeping your home at 19-20 degrees is the optimum to balance warmth and the cost of heating bills. Ordinary thermostats can be very inaccurate. A smart thermostat allows you to control your heating system from your phone or computer, making it easier to keep the temperature from creeping too high or low, and if you are out and about, lets you only start heating your home when you are heading back to it.

Even with conventional controls, rather than leaving the heating on throughout the day, if you go out, time it to come on just before you get in. Similarly, set the timer so that the heating comes on shortly before you get up – a warm room makes it a lot easier to get out of bed, but you don’t need it while you are asleep.

Don’t pay too much

Gas and electricity are not cheap these days, but you can cut the cost by shopping around for your energy suppliers. There are plenty of comparison sites online. MoneySavingExpert and Compare the Market can both find you the cheapest deals, and even help take care of the tricky business of switching suppliers.

Have your existing bills with you when you go online.

Get some help with bills

You may be able to get help if you are struggling with heating bills. If you’re eligible, you may be able to get a one-off discount of £140 on your energy bills, credited directly to your fuel account between September and March for the Warm Home Discount Scheme.

You’ll need to speak to your energy supplier to check that they’re part of the scheme and what their eligibility criteria is. They’ll also be able to tell you how you can apply.

There is also a discretionary Cold Weather Payment scheme from the government for people receiving benefits such as universal credit, income support or pension credit. You’ll get £25 payment if the average temperature in your area is zero or below over 7 consecutive days between 1 November and 31 March.

Finally, if you want to stay cosy without paying the earth, consider the new generation of electric throw. Over your knees or shoulders while you watch TV, and you can stay cosy all evening for a few pennies in electricity.

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